Diet change may make biggest impact on reducing heart risk in people with hypertension

Among several lifestyle changes that may reduce cardiovascular disease, adopting the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet may have the greatest impact for young and middle-aged adults with stage 1 hypertension, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2022, held Sept. 7-10, 2022, in San Diego. The meeting is the premier scientific exchange focused on recent advances in basic and clinical research on high blood pressure and its relationship to cardiac and kidney disease, stroke, obesity and genetics.

According to the 2017 joint American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology High Blood Pressure Guideline, stage 1 hypertension is defined as having a systolic (top number) level of 130-139 mm Hg or having a diastolic (bottom number) measure of 80-89 mm Hg.

The researchers estimate widespread adoption of lifestyle changes, such as limiting heavy alcohol consumption and exercising regularly, may prevent thousands of deaths and save more than one billion dollars in health care costs over the next 10 years. Their analysis found that adoption of the DASH diet could have the greatest benefit, with an estimated 15,000 heart disease events prevented among men and 11,000 event among women.

The DASH eating plan is specifically designed to help manage blood pressure. The diet emphasizes foods including fruits, vegetables, lean meat sources, nut, seeds and grains and limiting consumption of red meat, sodium, sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The research team estimated that 8.8 million U.S. adults, ages 35-64, have untreated stage 1 hypertension and would be recommended lifestyle changes, such as physical activity, sustained weight loss, moderating alcohol intake and adoption of the DASH diet.

In the absence of other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or kidney disease, and a predicted >(10%) 10-year CVD risk, people with stage 1 hypertension are considered at low risk for heart attack or stroke compared to people with stage 2 or higher hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is defined as systolic measures of 140 mm Hg or higher, or diastolic measures of 90 mm Hg or higher. The recommendations for treatment for people with stage 1 hypertension is based primarily on lifestyle changes rather than medication.

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